Using VI tool for editing config files.

How can I select all the text in a file (around 1000 lines), copy it, then paste into Google Docs?


12 Answers 12


The simplest and fastest way is to use: : % y + and then go over to Google Docs (or wherever) and paste. Explanation:

  • % to refer the next command to work on all the lines
  • y  to yank those lines
  • +  to copy to the system clipboard

Another way is g g " + y G but you will likely admit that the above is faster and easier.

  • 10
    @Tuxmentat can you please explain what each key does in :%y+
    – Jas
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 9:41
  • 10
    This answer would be better if it explained what each key does for both sequences.
    – AsksAnyway
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 14:13
  • 7
    My best guess: the ':' means we're using an "ex mode" command (I think). Anyhow, it's a command. '%' is a special command-line range specifier which specifies the whole file. 'y' yanks everything, and '+' specifies the clipboard register. :help <command> helped me figure this out. Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 9:53
  • 15
    i must be doing something wrong. i type :%y+, and i get E488: Trailing characters
    – johny why
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 20:51
  • 42
    I get "E850: Invalid register name". Second method worked fine for copying, but doesn't get to system clipboard on Ubuntu 16.04 (for me, at least---I have a .vimrc that may be affecting things). Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 20:50

Many given replies also yank the selection, which I was not looking for.

I'm using ggVG for this purpose (needs to be run on normal mode). This command only selects the whole text inside the document.

I've even remapped Ctrl+A for this purpose, since I don't really need to increment an integer with the shortcut (default Ctrl+A map).

Just add this into your .vimrc:

map <C-a> <esc>ggVG<CR>

It has <esc> first, to make sure the user is in normal mode.

  • 4
    Exactly what I was looking for, and it's nice to see that Ctrl+A isn't occupied in vim by default. Hope there are no side-effects. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 13:54
  • 6
    I personally use ggVG, but gg0vG$ might be more appropriate since it more closely replicates the 'normal' Ctrl+A operation.
    – Sheharyar
    Commented Sep 22, 2016 at 12:02
  • @Sheharyar ggvG$ working in the similar way as gg0vG$ in Vim 8.1. Are there versions of Vim where explicit goto beginning of the line (0) is necessary? Commented Apr 15 at 13:35
  • 0 is needed because when you do gg in the middle of a line, it will take you to the middle of the first line. (tested on the latest vim and neovim)
    – Sheharyar
    Commented Apr 20 at 20:42

You can use cat file and then select output and copy and paste if you need to paste it into your browser.

For vi this is how you can select all text and write it into a new file:

shift v  -- visual mode
shift g -- jump to eof
"*y -- yank select text
:e my_new_file -- create a new file
"*p -- paste into a new file

In theory this should work on both Linux and Windows - I tried it on a Mac but it doesn't work.

  • 1
    To paste into the Web browser cat file is the way to go. The shift v method only copies to Vi's internal buffer. Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 17:31
  • not if you use the system clipboard which uses the * registry - but this works on X only and I heard on windows - so if you ssh you need the -X - to check if vim has support for this into vim -- :set clipboard+=unnamed
    – silviud
    Commented Dec 30, 2010 at 17:34
  • Is there any alternative to do this without creating a new file.if we are editing live on server we need to keep the backup code on local machine so that we can revert back. Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 4:51
  • +1 for cat and select in putty. Of course, will not work for huge files and is not the most user friendly method. But for copying small script files which goes outside screen viewport is good enough. Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 16:36

USE ggVG. type "gg" to go at top of the test Then type VG.


I am using Vim 7.4 in CentOS-7 environment. Which worked me for selecting all the text is


Then just p in the next file where I want a full copy.


You can use cat command.

cat copyfile > pastefile

This git repo has some other useful commands too.

  • 1
    This is the best shortcut than any other codes. I have tested this and it works like a charm.
    – itsraghz
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 7:19




depending on whether + or * is the system clipboard. (On many unixes, + is the mouse selection buffer for middle-mouse-clicking, and * is the system clipboard).


For a Mac, use pbcopy (pasteboard copy):

cat file.txt | pbcopy

The contents of file.txt are now on the clipboard for pasting into another application (e.g. browser).

You can also paste the contents of the clipboard into a file using pbpaste:

pbpaste > file.txt

While this doesn't involve vi specifically it does achieve the same goal on a Mac.


If you're using a linux desktop, you could load it into the clipboard using xclip or xsel. For something that size you might just want to use the upload feature in google docs.


Another way would be:

You press v key on your keyboard and turn VIM to VISUAL

Then select all text by scrolling down

^+ INSERT to copy

SHIFT +INSERT to paste the text wherever you want on Google Docs.


Without using vi, you can upload text to google docs using their API and cURL.

  • 3
    that's the opposite of what OP wants -.- Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 18:27

See http://vim.wikia.com/wiki/Accessing_the_system_clipboard for options on how to do this. (if compiled in "* should refer to the system clipboard). There are also instructions there for how to use xsel with vim.


Use the following command.

cat <your file name>

It will echo the content of file. Now select, scroll, copy, paste.
Game Over


cat bobis.txt

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